Move over, Mr. Cub: Anthony Rizzo may top Ernie Banks’ 1B HR record
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With 30 home runs through Sunday, Anthony Rizzo has become the fifth Cubs player with 30 or more in four consecutive seasons.
Not only that, but he’s rapidly moving into position to become the Cubs’ all-time leader for homers by a first baseman.
The other Cubs who have reached 30 homers in four consecutive seasons are Sammy Sosa, who did it 10 years in a row starting in 1995, Hack Wilson (1927-30), Ernie Banks (1957-60) and Ron Santo (1964-67).
Banks did it in his shortstop years, so Rizzo is the lone first baseman on the list. His 163 homers as a first baseman rank third in Cubs history, behind Banks (210 as a first baseman, 214 in the years when his primary position was first) and Derrek Lee (179 homers with the Cubs, 178 at first).
The Cubs haven’t often gone the slugger route for long-term first basemen. Instead, they more often have chosen high-average hitters of modest power, such as Mark Grace, Phil Cavaretta and Bill Buckner.
Rizzo’s an exception, and it’s not difficult to see him catching Banks. At age 28, Rizzo also is in position to become, according to Baseball-Reference.com’s WAR, the most valuable Cubs first baseman this side of Cap Anson.
Anson’s 84.5 bWAR in 1876-97 aside, Rizzo’s 26.5 — including 4.3 so far in 2017 — is within hailing distance of the leaders:
• Frank Chance (45.6): Chance was a Cub for 15 years starting in 1898 and totaled 20 homers with a .297 batting average, .395 on-base percentage, .394 slugging percentage and .789 OPS. Those were very strong numbers for the dead-ball era, with a 135 OPS+ that indicates offense at 135 percent of league average.
• Mark Grace (43.9): Grace had a .308 batting average and an .832 OPS with the Cubs, and his 1,754 hits in 1990-99 led the majors. He hit 148 homers in 13 seasons with the Cubs and ranks fourth on their list in homers by a first baseman.
• Phil Cavarretta (34.0): A Cub in 1938-53 before two seasons with the Sox, Cavaretta hit .292 with the Cubs and .293 overall. He hit 92 homers with the Cubs, and his career .782 OPS translates to a 118 OPS+.
Rizzo already has passed Lee, whose 22.6 bWAR with the Cubs includes 7.7 in 2005, the 13th-best season in team history.
Others of note include Vic Saier (15.0, 1911-17), Leon Durham (14.9, 1981-88), Banks (12.7, 1962-71) and Charlie Grimm (11.4, 1925-36).
Banks’ career bWAR was 61.8, but 49.1 came in his shortstop years. Buckner, with a .300 average in eight seasons with the Cubs, hit 81 homers and walked rarely enough that his on-base percentage was only 32 points above his batting average. With a .771 OPS and 107 OPS+ Buckner had a bWAR of 8.5 with the Cubs.
Rizzo already is in the top tier of Cubs first basemen. And at his current performance level, he’s on pace to pass Banks in homers by a first baseman in two years and Chance in bWAR in four.
Follow me on Twitter @GrochowskiJ.